by Joanie Butman
My husband and I are in Florida exploring different options for retirement housing – a fascinating and sometimes frustrating exercise. I made an important discovery (and not for the first time). My husband and I are on different planets. There’s a good reason John Gray’s, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, spent years on the best seller list. Regardless, being in Florida, we’re surrounded by soon-to-be or recent retirees doing exactly the same thing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people put the same amount of time and consideration into planning for their eternal retirement? You’d think living in a state that’s adopted the moniker God’s Waiting Room might cause you to stop and at least consider where you’re going next.
I read that in the most popular senior communities people are buying early just to ensure they have a spot when the time comes. Not a bad strategy if you have your heart set on a particular location and you have the means to do it. It’s even a better strategy when spiritually applied. We all have the opportunity to ensure a spot in Heaven because Jesus graciously supplies the means. All we have to do is choose to claim it. Whether you get a room with a metaphorical view or not depends on how you live out your faith.
At the end of the day I often think of Jesus’ comforting words to His disciples in John 14: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Having looked at a plethora of houses ranging from decrepit teardowns to flawless model homes staged beautifully, I wonder what kind of accommodations Christ has in mind for me – and for my family. That seems harmless enough, but I’ve seen too many people fall into despair because they worry about their loved ones’ salvation and that they won’t be together in whatever room Christ has reserved for them.
As I mentioned, my husband and I definitely think differently about many things. People in the same family often do. Spirituality, for example, can be a source of great dismay for some believers if their family doesn’t share their faith. I suppose I can understand a certain element of disappointment if you don’t think you’ll be together in the afterlife, but that’s God’s business not ours. Who knows, that may be the very reason we’ve been put in their lives – to lead by example. Planting seeds and leaving the rest up to God. He’s got a plan and a path for everyone. They don’t need to align with ours any more than Mars aligns with Venus. Peter reminds us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God is not going to forget about anyone, regardless of where they are on their journey. Ironically, Stephen Hawking, a self-proclaimed atheist, asserts, “While there’s life, there is hope.” I wonder if he’s aware that he is paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 9:4, “Anyone who is among the living has hope.” Perhaps God is working in his life more than he realizes.
The best thing we can do for anyone is to choose to love well. As Pope Francis says, “Showing love to others is not something that we do to shine a light on who or what we are, but to show better who God is, and what He freely gives to us.” If we can live true to that purpose (and it’s not easy), we can trust that God will do the rest. If He can design two people in His image – yet who look, think and communicate totally differently and somehow make a partnership between the two work – He can certainly soften the hardest heart or convert the staunchest non-believer.
God has a room prepared for every believer. However, as I often remind my family, “No one gets in by proxy.” We each have to choose to accept His invitation and prepare for our final retirement in our own way. My husband and I may never agree on the type of residence in which to retire, but there's plenty of room for compromise. When it comes to eternity though, I have my heart set on where I’m going, and there is no compromising on that front.
How are you choosing to plan for your retirement?